It’s Super Bowl weekend and the entire TV racket is spooked. They back away from the ratings monster, assuming that every pair of eyeballs will be glued to the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots playing on Sunday (6:30 p.m., CTV and TSN). Such are the shivers of excitement rattling through all of the United States and Canada, nobody can concentrate on anything else. Or so they think.
Thus HBO believes it made a deft move, giving viewers an advance viewing of this Sunday’s lineup ahead of Sunday night’s game. On Friday, HBO subscribers (Crave/HBO in Canada) got early access to the next episodes of True Detective, Crashing and High Maintenance through its on-demand and streaming platforms. The episodes will still make their debut at their regular times Sunday.
Mind you, we can say harrumph to all the manoeuvres around the Super Bowl and the fear of it sucking the attention of hundreds of millions of sentient beings. Now, before you go searching for what’s on Netflix, be assured there is serious-minded programming airing this weekend. Take note, for a start, that for the entire month of February you can watch the documentary channel free through your cable provider.
The Accountant of Auschwitz (Sunday, 9 p.m. documentary channel, repeats Tuesday, 7 p.m.) is an already acclaimed doc and rightly. It’s a deep look at the 2015 trial in Germany of the 94-year-old former German SS officer Oskar Groning, who was nicknamed “The Accountant of Auschwitz.” He was charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. You see, it was claimed by him that he never actually killed anyone. He was merely the guy in charge of collecting and cataloguing the possessions of Jews when they arrived in the camp. It is argued by his side that all he did was that and then witness horrific events.
The trial galvanized Germany and part of the rich context given in the doc is that a new generation of Germans was witnessing a trial related to the Holocaust. Some elderly locals say, often sheepishly, that maybe the man is too old to be on trial. Others are fierce in their determination to see him judged in public. A disarming aspect of the story is that Groning testifies that he witnessed atrocities and he never denies that he worked in a camp. He is actually contemptuous of Holocaust deniers, some of whom were part of the protests outside the court. He says what he saw and that diminishes them.
In a way, the doc (it was made by Matthew Shoychet and was at Hot Docs last year) is about Germany now. A new generation of lawyers and activists have a different approach to the prosecution of war criminals. They look around at contemporary Germany and see the rise of anti-immigrant fascist groups who don’t want Nazism presented as evil. The younger generation believe it was wrong of their forefathers to largely ignore men such as Groning because they were seen as mere bureaucrats.
The doc also manages to have, at times, an intensely gripping quality, as Holocaust survivors face Groning and their vivid accounts clash with the banalities of his work that the mild-mannered old man describes.
In other serious programming this weekend, Changing Face (Sunday, CBC NN 10 p.m.) is a repeat of an excellent doc which goes to South Korea, the most cosmetically enhanced country in the world, it says, with more than 4,000 plastic-surgery clinics in Seoul alone. It is revealed that “the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea is driven not by the desire to stand out, but to blend in.”
CNN is running a marathon of all episodes of its series The Radical Story of Patty Hearst, which is rather good, starting at 7 p.m.
And if you must watch the Super Bowl (I will be, inveigled to write abut it), you will see a commercial to promote the coming new Amazon Prime Video series Hanna, coming to the service in March. But … but Amazon Prime Video will also make the first episode available for 24 hours only, starting when the game ends. It looks terrific: Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) has spent her entire young life training in Eastern Europe to fight those who hunt her and her mercenary father, Erik (Joel Kinnaman) but she is discovered by a rogue CIA operative, Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). It reunites Kinnaman and Enos for the first time since The Killing, in which they were spectacular together.